When I look back, I realize I've always gotten pretty excited over small culinary events. Sorting through pictures of when I was around eight years old, there's one that baffles me every time. I'm sitting on the front lawn, surrounded by Easter chocolates sent from France and a brand new pair of pistachio-green shoes.
Yes, pistachio-green shoes. But that's beside the point (and no, I do not still wear them, just in case you were wondering--I outgrew them). The Easter chocolates seem to have thrown me into this kind of trance: I've got such a smile on my face, you wonder if my Maman wasn't standing behind the camera, threatening to eat all my chocolate if I didn't smile enough.
Sometimes, in lieu of chocolates, another sweet treat would come in a box sent from France: les pralines. Pralines, not to be confused with what Americans call pralines, are sugar syrup-coated almonds. Conveniently, they are usually dyed pink--which only makes it better. From the outside, they look rocky and rough. A single bite, however, brings you into another dimension: the nuttiness of the almonds collides with the sweet, crunchy coating. If you are looking for an addictive snack, search no further.
The point to which I can get excited about small things in food is exactly why I decided to enter Project Food Blog hosted by Foodbuzz. My blog may be small, but I feel it really shows just how important food and cooking are to me. I like to think my love of cooking stems from all the food experiences I had as a child: meals and foods I loved created long-lasting memories, which in turn have shaped the way I cook and bake today.
Take these pralines roses, which I can thankfully find easily now that I live in Paris. I actually have the willpower not to eat the whole bag at once--I call that maturity and growing up. Now, only half of the bag will go directly into my mouth. Better, right?
What we're interested in today, however, is where that other half is going. Sorry to break it to you, pralines, but you are going to be crushed into pieces....and incorporated into a fluffy brioche, just in time to become a French classic: la brioche aux pralines.
Don't be afraid of yeast, at least for this once, and give this brioche a try. Just in case you have a little girl running around (or a boy who enjoys pink, even better), let them into the secret world of pink baked goods. They will thank you with one of those large, crazy smiles children know how to dole out.
I know why there's no picture of me with a huge smile sitting near a brioche aux pralines, though. I'm not sure it can travel 7000 kilometers without harm. And taking the risk of only having a semi-smile on the picture, well, that just wasn't possible.
I'll just stop for a second and daydream: if I became the next food blog star (in the words of Foodbuzz!), I would use the prize money for one single thing: help teach children and adults alike that creating wide smiles is easy. All it takes is flour, butter, and a little bit of imagination.
Brioche aux Pralines
adapted from Le Larousse des Desserts
Note: This version yields an almost cake-like crumb. Don't be surprised if the dough doesn't rise much: adding the crushed pralines beforehand will prevent the dough from filling with air. If you'd like to have the consistency of a classic brioche--pillow-soft--incorporate the pralines right before baking.
5g fresh yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 TB granulated sugar
1 TS salt
3 large eggs
10.5 TB unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
praline filling and coating:
3/4 cup pink pralines, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pink pralines, crushed to a powder (optional: if you want a very fluffy, traditional brioche texture, leave this out)
Break yeast into little pieces in a large bowl. Mix with flour, sugar and salt.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. When dough starts to detach from the sides of the bowl when mixed, add butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mix well until dough becomes easy to handle. If using, add crushed pralines and mix.
Place dough in another bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size for 3 hours.
Once dough has risen, "punch" it down to let gas particles out of the dough. Leave in a warm place for another hour.
Roll dough in coarsely chopped pralines to coat.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place brioche dough in a round or loaf pan, as desired.
Bake until golden on top, approximately 40 minutes. Cool in pan for five minutes and invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or once cooled completely.
Store brioche, wrapped in plastic wrap, for two days maximum.